As longtime New York Giants fans and season-ticket holders, we at Wide Write headquarters couldn’t be more excited about the start of the 2008 NFL season. Well, I guess we could be a little more excited — say, if Osi Umenyiora’s knee ligaments hadn’t turned into spaghetti a few weeks ago — but after last year’s improbable Super Bowl, we won’t spend too much time complaining.
We’re also excited about the start of a new fantasy season. Honestly, before fantasy football existed, the NFL wasn’t nearly as fun. Life just isn't the same without your wife looking at you disapprovingly as you check the real-time scoring for all three of your fantasy teams every 10 minutes on Sunday afternoons. Explaining that it’s an investment — kind of like the stock market — doesn’t usually help.
If you’re new around these parts, here’s how the column will work. Every Thursday until the end of the season, we’ll offer some lineup suggestions at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. The suggestions will refer to borderline starters, and not be obvious tips like, “You should really think about starting Randy Moss this week.”
Let’s get going on the Week 1 plays. We’ll pick a pair of players at each of the three positions mentioned.
Jay Cutler, Broncos: Based on Average Draft Position (ADP), which you can find by visiting the FOXSports.com fantasy section, Cutler was the 13th quarterback on a typical fantasy draft board. Cutler will be without his favorite target, suspended wide receiver Brandon Marshall. But he’ll also be playing the Raiders, whose defense allowed a putrid 398 points (seventh worst in the league) in 2007. Cutler is primed for a breakout season, and with or without Marshall, look for his stats to start piling up on Monday night.
(Note: Cutler hails from Santa Claus, Ind., which means we’ll definitely recommend that you start him in December.)
Kurt Warner, Cardinals: Warner was pretty far down on most draft lists, mainly because we didn’t know for sure until last week that he’d be the starter in Arizona. In case you were living under a rock last November and December, Warner averaged 295 yards and tossed 21 touchdowns in the final eight games of 2007. With talented wideouts Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, plus a still-solid Edgerrin James, Warner’s got a lot of support and can be expected to rack up fantasy points in San Francisco this week.
Earnest Graham, Buccaneers: After every running back in Tampa history went down with some sort of injury in the first six weeks of 2007, Graham stepped in and became one of the best stories of the season. He finished with 898 yards and scored seven times in his final seven games. The Bucs are in New Orleans this week, and since defense isn’t exactly the Saints’ strong suit, Graham looks like a nice play.
Ray Rice, Ravens: No, we’re not just picking Rice because there’s a Rutgers degree hanging prominently in the Wide Write offices. Rice was mainly drafted by many fantasy owners as a “handcuff” for teammate Willis McGahee, and since McGahee’s status for the season opener is very uncertain, cuff away with Rice. He’s scheduled to play against the Bengals’ shaky defense, and with rookie QB Joe Flacco likely to run a very conservative offense, Rice should get plenty of carries.
Though Rice could be a decent pick even if McGahee does play, it never hurts to keep an eye on the news Sunday morning before you set your lineup. We know a really great blog that will post updates as kickoff approaches. And now that the analysis is over with:
Upstream, red team!
Red team, upstream!
Rah! Rah! Rutgers RAH!
Muhsin Muhammad, Panthers: This might be the only week all year when you start Muhammad, and that’s OK. The Panthers visit the Chargers, and even though the Charlotte-based Wide Write office pulls for the home team, they’re probably going to get smoked. That means Jake Delhomme is likely to throw and throw and throw some more in the second half. With Steve Smith suspended and D.J. Hackett’s status uncertain due to a preseason toe injury, Jake’s options are limited, right? Say it with us — MOOOOOOOOOSE!
Roy Williams, Lions: Williams is the 27th wideout on FOXSports.com’s ADP list, and that’s waaaaaay too low. Before suffering a season-ending knee injury last year, Williams had 64 receptions, 838 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games. Sure, the emerging Calvin Johnson lines up on the other side of the field, but let’s look at Williams’ glass as half-full and note that the defense won’t be able to focus on him as much. Against the Falcons in Week 1, Williams is a good bet to look like the No. 1 receiver you thought he was a year ago.
John Halpin covers fantasy sports for FOXSports.com, writing a morning fantasy blog Sundays through Fridays and baseball columns once or twice each week, depending on the season. His "Wide Write" appears every Thursday during the NFL season on FOXNews.com. Send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more fantasy sports coverage, visit FOXSports.com/fantasy.